The 2022 NHL Draft just ended on Friday. Free Agent Frenzy is this Wednesday. What is going on in between all of this? Plenty. The New Jersey Devils - and a whole lot of other teams - are having a development camp this week. This is a chance for prospects, minor leaguers, and some invited players to get together with the team, get some work in, update some evaluations, and potentially make plans for later. The Devils will take part in the prospect tournament later this Summer and training camp is a couple of months away for the New Jersey Devils and Utica Comets. This camp will not earn anyone any jobs. It could earn an opportunity for another opportunity that down the line could.
Earlier this afternoon, the Devils announced their roster for development camp. It is filled with prospects, Utica Comets, and some invited players.
For those who prefer a typed-out format:
Forwards (18): Alexander Holtz, Tyce Thompson, Nolan Foote, Brian Halonen, Joonas Oden, Liam Devlin, Jaromir Pytlik, Garret Van Wyhe, Chase Stillman, Xavier Parent, Samu Salminen, Artem Shlaine, Nikola Pasic, Josh Filmon, Patrick Moynihan, Graeme Clark, Connor MacEachern, Brody Crane
Defensemen (12): Simon Nemec, Trevor Russell, Cole McWard, Jarrod Gourley, Filip Bratt, Seamus Casey, Ethan Edwards, Charlie Leddy, Michael Vukojevic, Topias Vilen, Viktor Hurtig, Case McCarthy
Goaltenders (6): Akira Schmid, Nico Daws, Tyler Brennan, Cole Brady, Isaac Poulter, Jakub Malek.
What is notable is who is not on this roster. Fabian Zetterlund, Kevin Bahl, Reilly Walsh, and Nikita Okhotiuk are not on this list. All four received various tastes of the NHL last season. I think this is a sign that the organization thinks they may not need this week of workouts and scrimmages. Or, in Okhotiuk’s case, just unavailable as he just got married. Congratulations to him, by the way. While Zetterlund needs a new contract, so does Tyce Thompson and he is on this roster - so that may not be an issue. Or at least re-signing Thompson should not be an issue.
The only other omission of note is Shakir Mukhamadullin. While he is signed to a contract and did come to the Comets at the tail end of last season, he is going to be loaned back to Ufa for another season per Tom Fitzgerald via Amanda Stein. Between the apparent military service issues involved with Ufa and Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, I am not pleased to see a prospect go back to Russia. But if it is what he wants and the Devils have some kind of assurance he can return, then so be it.
What is also notable is how many different prospects are here. Most of the 2022 NHL Draft class is here from Simon Nemec (Wearing a curiously low #5. A sign the organization has high hopes for him?) to Josh Filmon. Only Daniil Orlov, Artem Barabosha, and Petr Hauser are not here. I am a little surprised to see multiple college-based or college-bound prospects here. I know NCAA players can attend but only if they pay their own way. Still, good to see Salminen (soon to Denver), Shlaine (UConn), Edwards (Michigan), McCarthy (Boston University), and Brady (transferring to UMass) in the mix. I am also pleasantly surprised to see Hurtig, Pasic, Malek, and Pytlik come all the way for this camp. It makes for a stronger group and perhaps gives the evaluators here in New Jersey some first-hand information on their development.
Of course, it is time for the annual question to be asked and answered: Who exactly are the invited players this year? There are not as many as with past years. While names like Jarrod Gourley, Isaac Poulter, and Garret Van Wyhe may seem unfamiliar to you, that is because they are not in New Jersey’s system. All four were signed to AHL contracts with Utica. Van Wyhe was signed after Michigan’s season ended back in April. Gourley and Poulter were added on June 24. Who was invited from outside the organization? Here is the list with links going to their respective Elite Prospects profile pages.
- Filip Bratt - RHD, 20 years old, AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan) - This is indeed Jesper Bratt’s younger brother. He plays on his older brother’s former team, he wears #63 just like him, and he is as tall and heavy as his brother. Which is not ideal for a defender, but he’s making it work with AIK. Per his EP profile, he definitely plays physical despite giving up inches and pounds. If giving Jesper’s brother a week in Newark with the other prospect helps that negotiaiton, then so be it. More likely, they just needed a defender and Jesper said, “Why not my brother Filip?” Either way, best of luck to him.
- Joonas Oden - RW/LW, 22 years old, Ilves (Liiga) - This is an unusual invite: a signed player in Finland. Oden is American as he was born in Washington; but he has played his entire hockey life (and internationally) in Finland. He came up through the KooKoo system, transfered to Ilves last season, and the move certainly did him well as Oden put up 29 points in 56 games with Ilves. He is under contract for another two seasons (which makes this invite a little more odd), so if this is an opportunity to see if he would be interested in coming over or could handle a North American game, then both sides may have to wait a bit. Still, it is an interesting player to bring in for the week.
- Liam Devlin - F, 21 years old, New Hampshire (Hockey East) - After a season with Chicago in 2019-20 and a penalty-filled one with Omaha in 2020-21, Devlin suited up for the Wildcats of New Hampshire last season. With only 35 PIM in 34 games, I would suggest his behavior was better. His 9 goals and 16 points in 34 games was not only not bad, but tied for fourth in points on the team. He’s not a particularly small player, so this is another invite that I think could be an interesting one to file away for the future should he grow at UNH.
- Xavier Parent - LW, 21 years old, Sherbrooke (QMJHL) - No, he is not related to the legendary Bernie. Parent is an overage junior forward who put up a heaping helping of points last season for the Phoenix. As team captain, he put up 51 goals and 106 points. Only three players put up more points than him last season and all three were drafted (Joshua Roy, William Dufour, Jordan Dumais) He also put up 22 points in 11 playoff games. The 5’8”, 170 pound winger showed signs of his in a pandemic-shortened 2020-21, but he exploded onto the scoresheet last season. His next step is Canadian college with the University of Quebec-Trois-Rivieres.
- Connor MacEachern - F, 23 years old, Penn State (Big 10) - No, Connor is not related to NHL Shawn McEachern. I believe he was a brief teammate of Aarne Talvitie at Penn State, though. After two seasons in the OJHL, MacEachern jumped to Youngstown of the USHL and put up 56 points in 62 games. He just finished his junior year at Penn State, which was a break out of sorts going from 2 goals and 11 points in 21 games as a sophomore to 14 goals and 28 points in 36 games last season. If he ends up getting a deal after his senior year with New Jersey or Utica, then an invite like this may be the genesis of it.
- Brody Crane - LW, 18 years old, London (OHL) - Crane was draft eligible this year. He was not drafted. Putting up 8 goals and 15 points in 56 games in your first actual OHL season did not help. But there was some thought he could be a late pick on Friday. He was ranked 44th on Brock Otten’s Top 50 OLHLers this year. Otten pointed out that he could get more attention as an overager in 2023 if he blossoms. That is certainly possible as London may be losing some top forwards for next season and Crane could get an opportunity for minutes. An invite like this may show that someone in New Jersey has this in mind and wants a closer look at him first.
- Trevor Russell - RHD, 22 years old, Michigan Tech (CCHA) - Russell took the NAHL path as an overage player before going to Michigan Tech. As the Devils signed Brian Halonen from Tech to an entry level contract, Russell presumably caught someone’s eye. Certainly not for his scoring; he went pointless in 18 games. But the young man from Old Hickory, Tennessee may have shown some defensive skills that warrant at least a development camp spot.
- Cole McWard - RHD, 21 years old, THE Ohio State (Big 10) - When I see invited players from college, I expect to see that they are local. McWard is originally from Missouri, so that’s not likely here. Still, McWard just finished his freshman season with the Buckeyes with 16 points in 36 games - third most among defensemen on the team. While his USHL numbers suggest he is not a producer (USHL season high was just 33 points), that’s not a bad start to a college career. It may be good to see how he does and keep his name in mind in a few years.
Again, the invited players may be here just for the week, just to help fill in the rosters for scrimmages, and that may be the end of it. And that would be fine. But a good showing for any of them - especially those who are going to be free agents soon - could help them get a job somewhere in the future if not with this organization. I think this camp, as a set up for the Prospect Tournament, may be a good place for some of the prospects to show off their development and perhaps get an inside track at those games. Just like Filip’s brother, Jesper, those games did translate to a longer look in training camp and preseason games - which in turn went so well that Jesper made the New Jersey Devils at 19. Is it fair to expect that every year? No. Is it still worth pointing it out? Yes. Again, for some of the prospects, Comets, and invited players, this week will be a week to earn an opportunity for future ones.
What do you make of the Devils development roster? Who are you surprised to see and not see on this list? Will you be attending the 3-on-3 scrimmage tourney on Wednesday or the Red-White scrimmage on Friday? Please leave your answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.